So I took the dive and seriously bought some oil painting stuff. So my question is...
What's a good place to begin? For reference I mean. Should I start from photos?
Copying other peoples photos is a technical exercise and nothing else- bad habit to get into.
Digital cams are cheap and abundant these days, you probably have one in your phone, dream up your picture, get ref, paint.
Remember, you are not learning how to "paint", you are learning how to "see".
Life is a perfect 10
Photos are at best a 6
As one who learned from painting from photos and regrets it to this day...take an apple, put it on a cloth, put a light on it, and draw it, then paint it. Painting from photos is fine once you have learned how to see.
"There is no such thing as 'accurate drawing'. There is beautiful
drawing, and ugly, and nothing else." JAD Ingres, Ecrits sur l'art
Everyone I ever asked was kinda pleased that someone thought they should be the model for a "genuine oil painting" but then I did only ask art students.
Bring extra memory cards, ask them to bring spare outfits and make sure that you have at least one spotlamp.
Drive mode is your friend, fill those memory cards then use PS to frankenstein everything together as reference if necessary.
on a serious note, have a tripod handy, spare camera, polarizing and color filters filters, maybe some generic cloths as a drapery backdrop. the more serious you take the whole act of working with a model the less awkward it'll be. i try to have poses in mind (sketches beforehand) and run them by the model. its better to err on the side of being formal and professional than to be a little too socially candid and spontaneous. but if its a friend then i guess you really can act like an idiot during the shooting process and they'll understand.
also i dont know if this is good or not, but i try to have a very vague conversation floating around during the whole process as to not have weird silences of me working and them not seeing what i'm doing. i tend to narrate every action i do "okay i'm going to get some foreshortened shots of the feet so keep your knees up like that.. blah blah" or "the lighting is giving me a hotspot off your forehead, turn a bit to the right, etc." if the person is at all new to modeling its best to have them understand what it is youre looking for and give them direction. also, most importantly, they are in control of the pose durations and positions, if they gotta pee, their elbows hurts, or they simply need 5 minutes to stretch, let them do what they want when they want. the value of a model as a tool for art is invaluable.